Arden Robertson, a Surrey resident, began volunteering his time at Sunny Hill Health Centre in Vancouver on April 9, 1959. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

59 years later, Surrey volunteer still spends every Sunday with sick kids

‘My goal in life is to reach out to people who have needs,’ says Arden Robertson, 88

Arden Robertson has volunteered his time at a Vancouver hospital for an estimated 15,500-plus hours over the past six decades.

It’s an impressive run of service for the Surrey resident, who travels to Sunny Hill Health Centre every Sunday to spend time with sick kids and their families.

As chaplain, he started volunteering there on April 9, 1959 — more than 59 years ago.

“It was a place where I thought there was a need,” said Robertson, who lives in the Tynehead area.

“It’s simple, my goal in life is to reach out to people who have needs,” he added. “That’s my whole life, just volunteering and helping where I can.”

The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) recently posted video of Robertson talking about his many years as a volunteer.

(STORY CONTINUES BELOW VIDEO)

At age 88, he still makes weekly trips to the health centre, and also volunteers many hours at a seniors residence on 111th Avenue in Surrey.

“It’s not about me, really,” he said. “If in my life if I can encourage others to be a volunteer, that’s a goal of mine.”

Robertson operated a kitchen cabinet business in Richmond for 40 years, until his retirement two years ago.

He’s long been an ordained minister, but never at a church.

At Sunny Hill, he began volunteering as a non-denominational chaplain providing spiritual care and Sunday school programs to children with multiple and severe disabilities, most non-verbal, and some medically fragile.

“It struck me how Arden cut through the trappings of disability and truly saw these children like any others — human beings who needed love,” stated Sheila Kennedy, who first met Arden in 1982 when she began her career at Sunny Hill. “And wow, was he able to give this in spades. The core spirit of each child is recognized and celebrated whenever Arden is in the room.”

He’s kept in touch with one former patient at Sunny Hill for more than five decades. His name is Paul, and today he lives in a group home.

“I still have contact with him, 52 years with one man,” Robertson said. “He’s now 58 and I met him when he was six.”

From a young age, he has always been motivated to give his time, energy and service.

“When I was a kid and if our neighbours were older, I’d shovel their walk ways,” Robertson noted. “My goal has always been to help people all the way through, whatever I can do to help.”

Sadly, cancer took Robertson’s wife, Jean, from him a few years ago, and Robertson soldiered on with his volunteer duties. With his 89th birthday on the horizon, he sees a time when he’ll begin to slow down a bit.

“If Sunny Hill closes down, as is the plan, I think I’ll retire (from volunteering there),” he said. “I’d go to the new place for visits but not on a regular basis.”

Many children at Sunny Hill have complex medical, physical and developmental needs affecting physical, motor or sensory development or have acquired brain injury, prenatal exposure to alcohol or other drugs, cerebral palsy, or autism. A wing of BC Children’s Hospital, the health centre works with children, youth and their families by providing specialized development and rehabilitation services.

“These young children, boys and girls, are human beings, and one thing we all need is love,” Robertson said. “I feel as an outsider, if I can show them love and kindness, even with a smile, that means a lot to the children and it means more to me because I am blessed by seeing them and by being able to be with them.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

Just Posted

Surrey RCMP seeking help to find man missing since Nov. 7

Hyung ‘John’ Lee was last seen in the 13300-block of Old Yale Road

Pair of proposed Guildford highrises coming to public hearing Monday

City of Surrey received 229-signature petition opposing the plan

‘Stuff the Sleigh’ event aims to collect 5,000 Christmas toys for Surrey children

The Surrey Central Lions Club event will support the Surrey Christmas Bureau

Surrey kidnapping suspect still at large

Meaz Nour-Eldin is wanted in a 15-month-old Surrey kidnapping and assault case

VIDEO: B.C. couple creates three-storey ‘doggie mansion’ for their five pups

Group of seven, who Kylee Ryan has dubbed as the ‘wandering paws,’ have a neat setup in Jade City

MacKinnon powers Avs to 5-4 OT win over Canucks

Vancouver battled back late to pick up single point

Paul Bissonnette joins Vancouver Warriors after tweeting he could walk on to an NLL club

Bissonnette will join the Warriors for their final week of training camp at Rogers Arena

Port Alberni mom takes school district to court over Indigenous smudging, prayer in class

Candice Servatius, who is an evangelical Christian, is suing School District 70

Body found after SUV found fully engulfed in flames in Abbotsford field

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team have been called in

Family of B.C. man killed in hit-and-run plead for tips, one year later

Cameron Kerr’s family says the driver and passengers tried to cover their tracks

Princeton couple pays for dream vacation with 840,000 grocery store points

It’s easy if you know what you are doing, they say

Chilliwack family’s dog missing after using online pet-sitting service

Frankie the pit bull bolted and hit by a car shortly after drop off through Rover.com

B.C. wildlife experts urge hunters to switch ammo to stop lead poisoning in birds

OWL, in Delta, is currently treating two eagles for lead poisoning

Most Read